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Important ACA Deadlines and Consent Information

Filing of 2018 Forms

  • Forms must be furnished to employees no later than January 31, 2019.
  • Forms 1094-C and 1095-C must be filed to the IRS by February 28, 2019 if filing on paper.
  • Forms must be filed by April 1, 2019 if filing electronically.
  • For final 2018 1094-C and 1095-C instructions, please visit https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i109495c.pdf.

Consent to furnish 1095-C Statements electronically

Unless an employees has given specific consent to provide their form electronically, all forms must be furnished to employees by mail or delivered by hand.

For those employers that would like to furnish the forms electronically, the employee must confirm his or her consent electronically, to demonstrate the ability to retrieve the electronic form. A statement may be furnished electronically by informing the individual how to access the statement on the employer’s website. The consent must relate specifically to receiving the Form 1095-C electronically.

New York Sexual Harassment Prevention Requirements Finalized

The New York State Department of Labor (NYDOL) has released a finalized sexual harassment prevention policy, poster, complaint form, training materials, and minimum training standards. As anticipated, some of the most onerous requirements have been relaxed.

Notably, employers are now required to provide training to all employees by October 9, 2019 (instead of January 1), and new employees must be trained “as quickly as possible” (instead of within 30 days). Most of the policy and training requirements remain the same, though some have been clarified. Below are the basic requirements.

The entirety of the materials and requirements can be found here.

Training
The state has provided compliant training materials for employers to use free of charge. This includes a PowerPoint presentation, script, and case scenarios.

The training may be presented to employees individually or in groups. It may be presented in person, on the phone, or as a webinar or recorded presentation. The training should do as many of the following as possible to meet the requirement that it be interactive:

  • Ask employees questions as part of the program
  • Allow employees to ask questions, with answers provided in a timely manner
  • Require feedback from employees about the training and the materials presented

The model training released by the NYDOL includes detailed instructions as well as an 18-page script. It is available here.

Employers who choose to deviate from the materials provided by the state must ensure that their training is interactive and includes the following (these requirements have not changed since the draft materials were released):

  • An explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the NYDOL
  • Examples of conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment
  • Information regarding the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment
  • Information about employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for resolving complaints
  • Information addressing conduct by supervisors and any additional responsibilities for such supervisors

Policy and Complaint Form
The state has provided a model policy, which we recommend employers adopt. It is available here. A model complaint form is available on the same page and should be provided with the policy. Employers must provide every employee with their policy in writing, either on paper or electronically. If employers only provide an electronic copy, employees must be able to print it from a work computer.

The policy requirement goes into effect on October 9, 2018. Current employees should be provided with the policy as soon as possible, and new employees should be provided with the policy immediately upon hire. Although an acknowledgement form is not required by law, we strongly suggest employers collect one from each employee.

Employers who choose to write their own policy must ensure that it does all the following (these requirements have not changed since the draft materials were released):

  • Prohibits sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the NYDOL
  • Provides examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment
  • Includes information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment, remedies available to victims of sexual harassment, and a statement that there may be applicable local laws
  • Includes a complaint form
  • Includes a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties
  • Informs employees of their rights of redress and all available forums for resolving sexual harassment complaints administratively and judicially
  • Clearly states that sexual harassment is considered a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals who engage in sexual harassment and against supervisory and managerial personnel who knowingly allow such behavior
  • Clearly states that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding involving sexual harassment is unlawful

Poster
Employers are encouraged but not required to fill out and post the Sexual Harassment Prevention Poster in a conspicuous location in the workplace. A Word document is available for download in the same location as the model policy, here.

 

Please contact your Payroll Specialist if you have additional questions. Not a client yet? Request a quote today!

New Jersey Sick Leave Update

Paid Sick Leave

New Jersey has become the 10th state to adopt mandatory paid sick leave. It goes into effect on October 29, 2018. The state sick leave law overrules all municipal ordinances, which will have no force and effect after October 29th. Employers who already have a leave policy in place (including those based on a municipal ordinance) are free to continue to use that policy so long as it is at least as generous as what is required by the state. They should, however, be sure to comply with the state’s notice requirements.

Applicability

All New Jersey employers, regardless of size, must provide employees with paid sick leave. The only employees exempt from the law are construction workers subject to a collective bargaining agreement, per diem healthcare workers, and those employed by a public agency who receive sick leave through another program.

Accrual and Carryover

All employees, whether temporary, part-time, full-time, salaried, hourly, or paid on commission, must accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers may cap an employee’s sick leave accrual and use at 40 hours per benefit year.

The employer and employee may mutually agree to a payout in the final month of the benefit year of 50% or 100% of the employee’s unused sick time. If unused time is paid out in full, carryover is not required. If 50% is paid out, the remaining 50% will carry over. If the employee does not want to be paid out, or the employer chooses not to offer this option, all unused time up to 40 hours will carry over.

Employers may grant sick leave up front in a lump sum. When using the lump sum method, employers may either pay employees for unused sick leave at the end of the calendar year or allow carryover. With lump sum plans, whether to pay out or allow carryover is the employer’s choice – the agreement of the employee is not required. In no case will time be forfeit, unless it is in excess of the carryover limit of 40 hours.

Usage

Employees are eligible to use leave on their 120th day of employment. Sick time may be used for the following:

  • Diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or for preventive health care;
  • Diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from a family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or for preventive health care;
  • In the case of certain public health emergencies;
  • When time off is needed because the employee or a member of their family is a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
  • To attend a school-related conference or meeting.

Employers may set increments of use (e.g., one hour or four hours) but may not require an employee to use more time than they were scheduled to work during the shift they are missing. Employees may not be required to find their own replacement for a missed shift.

Employers may require reasonable documentation, such as a doctor’s note, if the employee uses sick leave for sickness or injury for three or more consecutive days.

If the need for leave is foreseeable, employers may require up to seven days’ notice.

Pay Out

When sick leave is used, it must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, but not less than the applicable minimum wage. Unused sick leave does not need to be paid out at the end of employment. Employees rehired within six months must be credited with their previously accrued and unused paid sick leave and allowed to use it immediately.

Notice to Employees

Employers must post a notice that will be produced by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as provide that notice to each employee individually, no later than 30 days after the notice is made public. Employees hired after this time should be given the notice upon hire.

Action Items

Employers should create and implement a compliant sick leave policy by October 29. They should also watch for the Commissioner’s notice and distribute it to employees as required. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development will likely release rules or FAQs prior to October that will assist employers in better understanding the law, but in the meantime additional information can be found on the HR Support Center.

Equal Pay Act

Effective July 1, 2018, New Jersey will have one of the strongest pay equity laws in the nation. The state joins Oregon in passing a law based not just on gender, but on all the protected classes recognized by the state. New Jersey protects employees from discrimination based on the following:

  • Race
  • Creed (religion)
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Nationality
  • Ancestry
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Civil union status
  • Domestic partnership status
  • Affectional or sexual orientation
  • Genetic information
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Sex
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait
  • Liability for service in the Armed Forces
  • Refusal to submit to or make the results of a genetic test available to an employer

The law makes it illegal to pay employees in a protected class less than those who are not when they do substantially similar work. To determine if work is substantially similar, employers should consider the skill, effort, and responsibility required.

Acceptable Reasons for a Pay Differential

An employer may pay a different rate of compensation only if it can show the following:

  1. That the differential is based on one or more legitimate, bona fide factors other than the characteristics of members of the protected class, such as training, education or experience, or the quantity or quality of production;
  2. That the factor or factors are not based on, and do not perpetuate, a differential in compensation based on sex or any other characteristic of members of a protected class (prior salary history would perpetuate unfair pay differentials, so should not be used);
  3. That each of the factors is applied reasonably;
  4. That one or more of the factors account for the entire wage differential; and
  5. That the factors are job-related with respect to the position in question and based on a legitimate business necessity. A factor based on business necessity will not apply if it is demonstrated that there are alternative business practices that would serve the same business purpose without producing the wage differential.

Comparisons of wage rates will be based on all of an employer’s operations or facilities. It is likely that pay differentials based on cost of living (e.g., Long Branch v. Salem) will be acceptable, but claiming a pay differential is based on location when the cost of living is similar is unlikely to pass muster.

Discussion of Wages Must be Allowed

The law also prohibits employers from having policies that bar employees from discussing their wages, benefits, titles, and duties with other employees or former employees, attorneys, or government agencies. Likewise, employers may not retaliate against any employee for those discussions. Although non-supervisory employees’ right to discuss their wages are protected federally by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, those protections only kick in if two or more employees are acting together to improve their wages or working conditions. In contrast, the New Jersey law applies to all employees and does not require any group action for protection.

Action Items

  • Conduct a self-evaluation. Assess your overall pay structure, pay bands for job groups, and individual wages. Focus on whether differences in pay can be fully and reasonably explained by the factors allowed by the law. Adjust pay as needed. Be aware that you cannot lower the compensation of one or more employees to equalize pay.
  • Remove any policies related to pay secrecy from handbooks, confidentiality policies, and offer letters, and ensure that those with the authority to discipline are aware of the protections provided by the law.
  • Train anyone involved in the interview process to steer clear of salary history questions, as these will almost invariably affect the offer made to a candidate but will not be considered an acceptable reason for a pay differential. Likewise, remove questions about salary history from your applications forms and interview process.

 

Click here for NJ State Wage and Hour Laws and Regulations

 

Please contact your Payroll Specialist if you have additional questions. Not a client yet? Request a quote today!

New W-4 for 2019 Delayed

Following feedback from the payroll and tax communities, the Treasury Department and the IRS will incorporate important changes into a new version of the Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, for 2020.  The 2019 version of the Form W-4 will be similar to the current 2018 version. A new draft version of the W-4 for 2019 will be available in the coming weeks.

The IRS will continue working closely with the payroll and the tax community as it makes additional changes to the Form W-4 for use in 2020. The new version will help employees improve withholding accuracy, and fully reflect changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

For the current 2018 tax year, the IRS continues to strongly urge taxpayers to review their tax withholding situation as soon as possible to avoid having too little or too much withheld from their paychecks. Click here to perform a quick “paycheck checkup” using the IRS withholding calculator.

 

Source: American Payroll Association

10 Ways to Improve Your Employee Handbook

 

When a new hire starts work at your bar or nightclub, you train and onboard them and give them your employee handbook to read through. And then they probably never see it again. Or, just as detrimentally, they forget everything they’ve read.

However, your handbook can be more engaging and more memorable.

Here are 10 ways to make it better:

1. Make it accessible, regularly.

“Many companies provide copies of their handbooks to employees at orientation and no one ever looks at it again,” says Nannina Angioni, a labor and employment attorney and partner of Kaedian LLP law firm in Los Angeles.

“Make it digital too,” says Christina Zaberto, HR manager with Associated HCM in Plainview, N.Y. This could be on an app or a web portal. “If it’s possible for people to get it on their cellphone, that’s the best bet, since they’ve always got it with them.”

Click here to read more…

 

What to Do if ICE Serves Your Business With a Form I-9 Audit

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has increased I-9 audits by more than 300 percent under the Trump administration. Is your business ready to respond to a notice of inspection from ICE?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been in the news quite a bit since the Trump administration came into office. Less covered than the stepped-up deportations, however, has been the surge in what are known as Form I-9 audits, in which ICE inspectors review businesses’ documentation regarding the work authorization for foreign employees.

I-9 audits can be consequential for employers who fail to comply with the law. Fines for failed I-9 audits can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and repeated willful violations of the law could even lead to criminal prosecution in rare cases.

Here’s a look at the I-9 audit review process, as well as advice from experts on how to proactively prepare for an I-9 audit if your business receives a notice of inspection from ICE.

Click here to read more…

W-4: What to expect in 2019

December 2017

On December 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) made small reductions to income tax rates for most individual tax brackets and significantly reduced the income tax rate for corporations. It also provides a large new tax deduction for owners of pass-through entities and significantly increases individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) and estate tax exemptions. And it makes major changes related to the taxation of foreign income.

February 2018

In February 2018, the IRS published the new online W-4 Calculator, and it is strongly recommended that employees access the calculator to determine the correct number of withholding allowances.

  • The IRS calculator will ask a series of questions about income, marital status, anticipated deductions and eligibility for tax credits, to estimate annual taxable income and suggest the most appropriate number of withholding allowances.
  • It is recommended that all employers should begin considering reminding employees of the withholding calculator, which will help employees check their tax withholding at any point in the year, compared to their total expected full-year tax liability.

June 2018

On June 6th 2018, the IRS released a draft of the 2019 Form W-4 and instructions, some highlights include:

  • Employees are strongly encouraged, but not required, to complete a new W-4 for 2019.
  • Employers will still be able to use 2018 and prior Forms W-4 for employees that don’t complete a 2019 W-4. As a result, payroll systems will need to maintain both 2018 and 2019 withholding systems and calculations simultaneously.
  • Number of allowances Eliminated: Line 5 “Total number of allowances you’re claiming,” is eliminated.
  • New Marital Status Box – Head of Household: A third IRS withholding calculation/table will need to be added to correspond with this new marital status, in addition to the existing table for Single and Married Filing Jointly.
  • New Line 5 – Additions to Income: This new line asks employees to enter nonwage income [not subject] to withholding (such as interest of dividends).
    • Previously, employees with significant nonwage income had to convert such amounts to equivalent per-payroll additional amounts to withhold.
    • Line 5 amounts will be full-year estimates, so employer payroll systems will need to be modified to include these full-year amounts in withholding calculations.
  • New Line 6 – Itemized and Other Deductions: Line 6 prompts employees to enter estimated subtractions to include based on expected deductions (such as state and local taxes, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions).
    • Previously, employees needed to convert deductions into equivalent withholding allowances.
    • Again, amounts entered will be full-year estimated deduction totals, so payroll systems will need to include full-year amounts in withholding calculations.
  • New Line 7 – Tax Credits: This line asks employees to enter the full-year amount of any tax credits for which they expect to qualify, such as the child tax credit. As a reminder, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly expanded child and dependent tax credits.
    • Previously all tax credits were translated by employees into additional withholding allowances. With the 2019 Form W-4, full-year tax credit amounts will be directly entered into payroll systems.
    • Any tax credits should only be entered for the highest paying job in the households with multiple incomes. Taxes may be significantly under-withheld for a household if both spouses enter the full-year credit expected, resulting in a large tax amount due at year-end. Conversely, taxes may be significantly over-withheld if neither spouse enters the total tax credit amount, resulting in reduced net paychecks during the year, and a lard tax refund at year-end.
  • New Line 8 – Additional Household Income Due to Multiple Jobs: If applicable, employees will enter the [full year] income associated with any second job. Additional wage income should only be entered for the highest paying job in households with multiple incomes. There are special instructions for households with more than two incomes.
    • Employers will include these full-year amounts in withholding calculations in order to determine the appropriate tax bracket and rates for the employee.
    • Alternatively, the instructions will offer a calculation to estimate an additional tax amount to withhold per pay period, which was the solution prior to 2019.
    • Previously, employees used a Form W-4 worksheet to calculate a specific additional amount to withhold per pay period.
    • Employees will be able to utilize the online calculator.
  • Line 9 – Additional Amount, If Any, You Want Withheld From Paycheck: This line is unchanged.

As more information is released we will continue to communicate changes and what you should look for. Please contact your Payroll Specialist if you have any questions.

Worried About Retention? The Best Way to Keep Employees Is to Be Useful to Them

According to Gallup, 51% of employees are looking for a new job, and 68% of employees believe they are overqualified for the job they have. Even engaged employees are job hunting at an alarming rate—37%. Employees who change jobs cite career growth opportunities, pay and benefits, management, company culture, and job fit as reasons for doing so.

Employees surveyed said they want to do what they do best while maintaining a good work-life balance. They desire a secure and stable job that pays well and contributes to their personal wellbeing. They’re likely to leave their current employer if they can get a more flexible work schedule or a significant pay increase elsewhere.

To retain employees—especially top performers—employers often look for perks they can offer to make employment with them more attractive and to keep good employees from leaving. We believe perks are nice, and they can encourage retention, but providing an assortment of distinguishing perks won’t keep employees long-term unless those perks meet essential employee needs.

The best way to retain employees is to remember why they became your employees to begin with—they have wants and needs, and employment with you enables them to meet those wants and needs. In other words, you’re useful to them (as they are to you). When your organization ceases to be useful or becomes less useful than another employer, employees might start looking for the next best (most useful) opportunity. The more useful you can be, the more inclined employees will be to stay with you. Fortunately, meeting your respective needs can be a solid basis for long-term collaboration and shared success. Here’s how:

  • Talk to your employees about what knowledge, skills, and abilities they think would help them do their job better or make additional contributions to the organization. By involving employees in the discussions and decisions about what training they receive, you help them gain a sense of ownership over their work, their professional development, and their futures.
  • Provide coaching and training opportunities that bring value to your organization and the professional development of your employees. Yes, training may make your workers more employable elsewhere, but it also prepares them for a better future working for you. You can increase the likelihood that your employees will use the training they receive for your benefit by giving them opportunities to put what they’ve learned to immediate use and rewarding them when the new skills and extra effort pay off. Prompt application of what they’ve learned will help solidify their knowledge, while the positive reinforcement will encourage continued use of the new skills.
  • Involve employees in company initiatives that make use of their skills or teach them new ones. Not only will this help prevent their jobs from becoming too repetitive, they’ll gain valuable experience and form a connection to the organization that goes beyond their initial job duties.
  • Make work meaningful and highlight the good that your organization does. This is especially important if the typical job duties of an employee feel mundane or uninspiring. If you’re paying someone to do a job, that job is essential to the mission of your organization. And that mission has value. Make sure employees know that their work, however repetitive or unexciting, matters. Take pride in the good you all do. Show your appreciation and gratitude. Recognize workers for a job well done. People want to feel appreciated, that they’re important, and that they’re involved in valuable work. You can help fulfill these wants.
  • Encourage social interactions among workers. While money might be the primary reason people get jobs, it’s not the only reason. People tend to seek social connections and enjoy interacting with others. They like doing things with other people, and the workplace can be a great place to make friends, build community, and collaborate on a meaningful enterprise.
  • Offer bonuses when your company meets its financial goals and when employees meet their individual and team goals. Bonuses motivate employees to be more engaged and productive by rewarding them with a tangible return on their investment.
  • If feasible, offer raises to account for cost-of-living increases, job performance, and individual accomplishments. Like bonuses, raises encourage efficient and productive work by rewarding it. Of course, huge pay increases simply aren’t an option for many companies, especially small to medium-sized businesses. As much as these employers might want to pay higher salaries and wages, they don’t have the extra funds. If you’re unable to offer substantial raises or bonuses, the non-monetary rewards mentioned above become all the more useful and important.

There’s no guarantee that every hire will be the right fit and stay with your company as long as you’d like, but you can help improve retention—and cut down on its costs—by remaining useful to your employees. Your employees want to succeed in their professions as much as you do in your business. By aligning their individual success with your organizational success, you give them huge incentive to stay, improve their skills, and put those skills to good use in your organization.

Interested in more HR advice and answers to your frequently asked questions? Sign up for HR Support Center today!

ACA Penalties Will Continue

A new round of penalty letters are expected to be sent out later this year. More than 300,000 proposed-penalty letters were sent by the IRS this summer and late last year for alleged violations of the ACA’s employer mandate in 2015. Employers can expect to see 2016 assessment letters before the end of 2018. Employers need to be prepared.

Penalties Are Proposed, Not Final

The proposed-assessment letters, called Letters 226J, are preliminary employer shared responsibility payment (ESRP) assessments, these are not final assessments. Some employers incorrectly assume that the IRS cannot be challenged, the IRS proposed assessment can and should be challenged if based on erroneous information.

Most assessments relate to errors on reporting forms, and the IRS has been willing to reduce the penalties if the employer provides an explanation to the IRS regarding the errors.

Under the ACA, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must submit Form 1094-C to the IRS, along with Form 1095-C; these forms contain information about their employees’ health coverage. Form 1095-C also is sent to full-time employees. A reporting error on one of these forms may result in a proposed penalty.

The IRS may provide the employer with a list of employees who, in the absence of being offered minimum essential coverage from the employer, received a premium tax credit. The list shows the months for which a premium tax credit was received and what codes were reported on Form 1095-C for each of these employees.

Often, employers realize that the employees on the premium tax credit list were simply assigned incorrect codes for certain months on Form 1095-C. For example, an employer may have failed to put in a code showing that an employee was not a full-time worker in a certain month. In response to the assessment letter, employers can provide correct codes for the premium tax credit listing, making a reduction in penalties more likely, they said.

The IRS is not asking for information on every one of a large employer’s full-time employees, just those on the premium tax credit list, they added.

Penalties Are Here for Now

Some believe they can ignore the assessment notices because they believe they are not subject to the penalty or that the ACA will be repealed. This is a mistake. Failing to timely respond to a notice will result in the IRS making the assessment based on the information it has. Ignoring the IRS assessment is not an effective strategy.

Employers that received an assessment notice for 2015 should look at their 2016 and 2017 reporting to see if they can expect additional notices.

The IRS continues to refine this penalty process, and it doesn’t look like the assessment letters are going away anytime soon, so being aware of them is important.

 

 

Source: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/more-ACA-penalties.aspx?utm_source

LIBN: Immigration audits on the uptick

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did a recent audit of a New York City-based construction firm’s I-9 forms that relate to the right to work in the United States.

They found that the company didn’t have forms for some workers, some forms were incomplete and some had incorrect information.

An accounting firm has since gone in to audit the forms and come up with procedures to make sure they’re done as required in the future.

“We told them we would do an I-9 remediation to fix it and develop a plan to implement that process for them to be totally up to date,” Jeff Agranoff, human resources consultant principal at Grassi & Co. in Jericho, said. “That led to terminating some employees not eligible to work in the U.S.”

Click here to read the article on LIBN.com

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